A Little History of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp

Duck stamps have been around a long time and have been a major source of funding for habitat preservation and restoration.  The work funded by duck stamp sales has benefited not only ducks but many other non-game species.  Thanks to duck hunters and the duck stamp program, birders are able to enjoy seeing and photographing many species that might otherwise have experienced severe population declines.

We encourage birders to purchase their own duck stamps, one of the best ways to support habitat conservation.

Here is a little history of the duck stamp from the Friends of the Migratory Bird/Duck Stamp email newsletter.

1) The 1950-1951 stamp (showing Trumpter Swans by Walter Weber) was the first one to be chosen by an open art competition.

2) In the late 1940s, the Izaak Walton League passed a resolution asking the Department of the Interior to place Ding Darling's portrait on the 1950-1951 Stamp. Darling quickly sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior, asking him to reject the suggestion. "I want to be the first to protest against it," he wrote.

3) The 1959-1960 stamp, with artwork by Maynard Reese, depicted a Mallard, but it really showed a Labrador retriever, King Buck. The required theme for the 1959-60 stamp was "Retrievers save game," and there were 110 entries by 64 artists in the open competition.

4) Our three species of scoters - black sea-ducks - have appeared on stamps , but only one time each: 1969-1970 (White-winged Scoter by Maynard Reese), 1996-1997 (Surf Scoter by Wilhelm Goebel), and 2002-2003 (Black Scoter by Joseph Hautman). In the last case, all the artists in the 2001 contest were instructed to illustrate Black Scoter. There were no other options.

5) The first year for the self-adhesive - as well as the gummed - stamp was for the 1998-1999 stamp (Barrow's Goldeneye, by Robert Steiner). That self-adhesive format dominates the sales and distribution.

6) The first Federal Duck Stamp Art Contest open to the general public was in 1966. The winning image that year was of a trio of flying Canvasbacks, a black-and-white wash drawing by Ron Jenkins.

7) The highest number of stamps sold in one year was for the 1971-1972 stamp. There were 2,445,977 stamps sold.